Anwar Ibrahim won his defamation suit against the New Straits Times
The court also ordered the media giant to pay RM20,000 in costs to the PKR leader.
Earlier the court ruled that NSTP had defamed Anwar in its article published in the New Straits Times on March 2, 2002.
The High Court ruled that the daily may have had “sinister” motives behind an article it published seven years ago which linked Anwar financially to powerful US lobbyist, Douglas H. Paal.
But the court noted that the RM100 million Anwar is seeking in damages was a gross exaggeration.
The court ruled that Anwar can only claim RM100,000 as compensation from the daily, plus another RM20,000 in costs.
An interest rate of eight per cent shall be added to the amount.
Anwar had sued New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd and its former group editor-in-chief Abdullah Ahmad for RM100 million over the defamatory article.
The NSTP article was based on another article - 'The Bush Administration's dubious envoy to Taiwan' - that was published in the political weekly magazine New Republic's March 2002 issue. Anwar filed the suit on July 4, 2003.
Harminder said he did not quite see how ordinary, right thinking members of the community would see Anwar as an American agent.
"The purpose of dialogues, as conceded by the plaintiff, was to build strong rapport with members of the Congress and United States government," said the judge, saying that using the APPC as a vehicle does not suggest anything sinister, illegal or immoral.
"I think the community will perceive dialogues to be an excellent way to exchange ideas or even influence the thinking of the people and the countries involved. To have dialogues to build rapport and to influence change is certainly better then waging wars as recent events bear testimony.
"Looking at it in this light, I do not think members of the community will see anything wrong with the government funding the dialogues. There cannot be anything defamatory about this. Certainly, the imputation about the plaintiff being an American agent is quite baseless."
Harminder said NSTP did not try to prove the truth of its article and asserted that it was unable to show accuracy. As well, Anwar was brought in to testify that there was no truth to the article, and he was not challenged on this.
"Anwar also called the former director of investigations of the Anti-Corruption Agency, Abdul Razak Idris who told the court that he supervised investigations on the contents and allegations stated in former assistant governor of Bank Negara Abdul Murad Khalid's statutory declaration. The investigations found the allegations were baseless and sustainable."
Harminder further held that the writer had not interviewed Anwar, who was in prison at the time.
"Apart from resorting to the Internet, she did not take other steps to locate Paal. She also admitted she did not interview Abdul Murad.
"Her response to this was that the article contained matters which had already been commented upon by government officials and also subject to extensive coverage by the media.
"She should have verified the accuracy of the New Republic article. Her reasons for not doing so are therefore unjustifiable and unsustainable and therefore cannot be accepted."
Harminder said there was no urgency for NSTP to print the article, as the story about APPC and Abdul Murad's statutory declaration was stale news.
"A response was necessary as there was only one side of the story available. Considering all the facts and circumstances, the article by the defendant was not a piece of responsible journalism to which the defence of qualified privilege is available," he added.